At the beginning of March, United announced that they would be eliminating quarterly bonuses for their employees, which were up to $300 per quarter when United met their goals.
They planned to replace this with a lottery system that includes quarterly prize drawings, ranging “from $2,000 to $40,000, luxury cars, vacation packages, and a grand of prize of $100,000 awarded to one eligible employee per quarter.” This drawing would happen each quarter as long as United reached at least one of their performance goals.
This was clearly a cost saving measure on United’s part, when you consider that they have 88,000 employees. United’s president spun this change as a positive, suggesting that this was an “exciting new rewards program,” and a United spokesperson said that they believed this “new program will build excitement and a sense of accomplishment as we continue to set all-time operational records that result in an experience that our customers value.”
United employees were livid, partly because they were having a consistent bonus taken away, and partly because management was trying to spin this as a positive. Given how viral the story went, after less than a week United realized that they had no choice but to backtrack. United said that they’d maintain the same program for the first quarter of 2018, as they took some time to “reconsider the program and gather additional input.” They said that they’d have a lot of listening sessions across the system. I’m not sure what they were expecting to hear there, other than “don’t change the program.”
The first quarter is now up, and there’s an update on this situation.
The Chicago Business Journal quotes a memo sent yesterday by United’s VP of Human Resources and Labor Relations, Kate Gebo, telling employees that United won’t make any changes to their existing quarterly operational incentives program for the remainder of 2018.
The decision to keep the current program comes after more than 50 listening sessions around United’s network, with Gebo calling the feedback “thoughtful, honest and passionate.” She says that one of the themes that emerged is that “when it comes to operational performance, you want to be rewarded as a team for what is truly a team accomplishment.”
While this program is safe for 2018, it looks like United might still try to make changes to it in 2019, as they say “looking forward to 2019 and beyond, our goal is to ensure that you feel truly valued for your contributions to United’s ongoing success.” United will provide an update on what a new program will look like before the end of the year. Hopefully they’re a bit more careful next time, both with how they share the message, and the content of it.